A former world champion in swimming, unlike Lukashenko, was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison

A former great Belarusian swimmer has just been found guilty by a court in Minsk. Aliaksandra Herasimenia has indeed been sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison in Belarus for “creating an extremist formation”, the rights organization Viasna announced on Monday. At the age of 36, Aliaksandra Herasimenia was the world champion in the 100m freestyle in 2011 in Shanghai, before winning two silver medals (in the 50m and 100m freestyle) at the 2012 London Olympics and then bronze in the 50m freestyle in Rio 2016.

A press release published on Viasna’s website specifies that the trial against the former high-level athlete began on December 19. According to the NGO, the 2019 retiree, who lives in exile, was also found guilty of “calling for sanctions against Belarus” and “spreading false information about events” in the country in 2020.

A trade union representative also ruled on Monday

That year, during an unprecedented protest against the disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, Aliaksandra Herasimenia signed an open letter along with other Belarusian athletes calling for “free elections”. In the process, she had set up the Belarusian Foundation for Sports Solidarity (BSSF), an organization that provides financial and legal assistance to Belarusian athletes targeted by the authorities. This is recognized by the Belarusian authorities as an “extremist formation”.

In April 2021, she auctioned her gold medal won at the 2011 Worlds for €13,500 to raise funds to support opposition athletes. In addition, a union representative, Alexander Yarochouk, was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday for “seriously undermining public order” in 2020, Viasna announced in another press release. For more than two years, the Belarusian authorities have carried out relentless repression. Almost all opposition figures have been imprisoned or driven into exile.

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